Let’s admit it, Arizona isn’t a mecca of fall foliage like other parts of the country (we’re looking at you, Vermont!) But there’s still a few destinations throughout the state where your family can see the leaves changing colors and are easy to get to from the East Valley.
Sedona’s changing leaves are typically in late October and early November, so timing is a bit tight to catch the leaves changing. The yellows and oranges of the oaks mixed with the Sedona red rocks is something truly spectacular to experience.
We recently tested out a family-friendly itinerary to explore Sedona’s beautiful fall leaves, red rocks and notable Oak Creek. It was a lovely infusion of nature and a slower-paced weekend adventure.
Catch our full itinerary below with tips on where to stay, eat and explore.
Where to stay
My motto is the less I have to drive on vacation, the better the vacation is. So for me, our home base hotel’s location is number one priority. This is even more true with my little guy, because like most kiddos, he hates the car seat, so the less transfers in and out of it, the better.
Best Western Plus’s Arroyo Roble Hotel Creekside Villas checked all the boxes for a weekend getaway: literally steps from Sedona’s uptown shopping corridor, a private section of Oak Creek just for hotel guests and affordability. (Best Western’s have updated a lot since when I was a kid—they’ve recently invested new life into the brand for things that matter to moms, like free wifi, modern amenities and of course a free hot breakfast.)
Each room has a private patio ideal for still being able to enjoy your weekend getaway during naptime. The views from the patio were untouched red rock beauty—it felt like a high-end resort view.
Sedona is known for Oak Creek, and this property has 600 feet of private frontage on the creek. This hotel is also the tallest building in Sedona, so you have unobstructed panoramic views of the red rocks from each guest room making it feel much more like a resort than a family-friendly hotel.
What to do
Weekend trips can feel rushed to squeeze everything a destination offers into two nights, but that’s the beauty of local statewide exploration; we can always come back up to do more! Contributor Ashley reminded me that especially with littles in tow, sometimes not having a full itinerary works out better. So here’s our very focused weekend itinerary on how to fully embrace the fleeting fall foliage this autumn in Arizona!
Pack a picnic
Our hotel boasts a private portion of Oak Creek, making it a quick walk from the hotel room to the creek. We did two picnics during the weekend: a breakfast picnic (all Best Western properties offer free, hot breakfasts). As part of their COVID precautions, their breakfasts right now are grab and go which made a breakfast picnic even easier. The breakfast burritos we chose (plus coffee, orange juice and fruits) was already ready to take down to the creek!
I also packed a few happy hour type bites and did a happy hour picnic our first afternoon upon arrival at the hotel. This was a great first activity because it’s on property and allows kiddos to explore and use up some of the pent-up car energy.
Take a hike
Sedona is known for hiking, but serious hiking versus hiking with a baby are two very different things. I did a bunch of research for an easy hike while wearing a baby and picked Eagle’s Nest Loop (part of Red Rock State Park), an easy 1.5 miles round trip. I ended up rolling my ankle before we were supposed to go on this part of the itinerary, so I can’t speak to it directly, but it’s what I was planning!
The Red Rock State Park Visitor’s Center typically offers a Junior Ranger program, daily guided nature walks and moonlit hikes, but those are paused due to COVID safety precautions at this time.
Drive the Red Rock Loop
This driving loop takes about an hour with three stops for kids to get out of the car and explore, making it into a full morning activity if you’d like. Stops include a scenic overpass with amazing photo opps, the state park visitor’s center and the state park where you can hike, explore, picnic or even barbeque.
For little ones, this can double as a car nap between other activities—win/win!
See the Sunset from the Sedona Airport Overlook
Watching the sunset from this overlook was a spectacular way to end the day.
Be warned it does get crowded, so be sure to arrive early for the best vantage points. Or, for those with early rising kiddos, I’m sure sunrise would be just as spectacular and less crowded!
This is a bonus experience for kiddos who love planes; this is a mega hit for them to see the planes come in and out of the airport.
Where to eat
All of our dining was within walking distance of the hotel; I can’t say enough great things about the location of the hotel property that allowed us to maximize our time exploring (and eating) our way through the town. We didn’t eat breakfast out since Best Western offers free, hot breakfast.
You have to add this to your itinerary! Amazing service and even better food, I can’t recommend Cowboy Club enough. Known for “high desert cuisine” they offer wild game and other Arizona-inspired menu items that are sure to please even the pickiest eater. My baby tried (and loved) the cactus fries appetizer, which are pickled napales (cactus) breaded in buttermilk and spices. There’s also rattlesnake on the menu, as well as bison and a few other better-than-beef options. Of course, staying on trend for the weekend, I tried their jalapeno-infused mezcal with pineapple juice, cilantro and more.
The décor features cowboy art and encourages you to lean-in to everything Arizona-inspired in the best way. This restaurant’s cowboy history runs deep; legends like John Wayne and Elvis would come in after movie shoots (Sedona filmed more than 50 Westerns in the 1950s and 60s!)
Here’s a peek into how excellent the service was: We’d left the restaurant and were at least two blocks away when one of the servers caught up to me to return my facemask I’d absentmindedly left at the table. I was so touched that he went out of his way to chase me down just to return a face mask!
Sunset drinks at Canyon Breeze
A perfect pairing to keep both kids and parents happy, Canyon Breeze boasts full 180 degree views of Sedona red rocks with a large, spacious patio and a telescope for kids to let loose while parents take in the view. I ordered a jalapeño margarita (they infuse the tequila in jalapenos on-property!) and it was delightful (and strong!). They also offer local draft beers from Oak Creek Brewery and some Flagstaff breweries, too!
From the front, this may deceive you; Canyon Breeze is connected to a cafeteria-style indoor restaurant, too, making it easy to order kid-friendly fare. There’s also a local ice cream shop with 16 ice cream flavors that kids can take to the patio. But go through all of that to get to the 180 degree patio views and the stellar cocktails!
I loved this so much we ended up here both nights—that’s the type of traveler I am, once I find a local gem, I keep going back the rest of the trip!
I’d highly recommend taking the time to explore the fall leaves with your family in Sedona, it’s not only a lovely memory-making adventure close to home, but it also gave us amazing photos that look like we’re more than two hours away from the East Valley!
Thanks to Best Western for hosting our hotel stay during this trip. While parts of the trip may be hosted, all thoughts and opinions are our own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support East Valley Moms and enable us to continue bringing you content you crave.